A rockin’ good read on poster collecting

Posted:  Wednesday, January 3, 2018 - 8:30am

Back in the day, when we were all buying albums, before and during the 8-track phenomenon, it wasn’t just for the music; the album covers were works of art. Janis’ “Cheap Thrills” artwork by R. Crumb (who, when in musician mode, played with his band the Cheap Suit Serenaders) and the Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” – the one with the working zipper on the pants, you remember, right? Have one in your old album collection I’d wager); and Cream’s “Disraeli Gears” – as pop art as they came, come to mind.

But it wasn’t only the album covers of the mid-1960s through the 1970s that blew fans away; there were the concert posters. Works of art they were and so much so that they are hot collectible items. Where and how do you begin to collect concert posters? The best thing you could do right now is get your hands on the Overstreet Guide to Collecting Concert Posters, published in the fall of 2017.

Overstreet Guides have been around since 1970, the brainchild of Robert Overstreet. In the early years as a price guide for comics, collectors, etc., expanding into guides for collectors of everything from comics to costumes, to movie and concert posters, to horror and antiques.

The concert poster guide is informative not only for the collector, or potential collector, but for those of us who still groove to the sounds of the psychedelic era and remain diehard fans of the bands whose sounds blew our minds and rocked our souls.

For example, articles include The Beatles’ club concert period; The Doors, Janis Joplin, Big Brother and the Holding Company (before and with Janis), Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, The Ramones, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Starship, Otis Redding, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Aretha Franklin, Prince, Aerosmith, Blondie, KISS, and Tina Turner are fun reads filled with all kinds of cool historical info. Accompanying all articles are vintage concert posters created for each music artist/band.

There are also features on the artists of the era who created the most iconic posters of the time period, whose works defined pop and psychedelic art; bios on the artists who created some of the most iconic concert posters in music history – Wes Wilson’s, according to the Guide, are the most coveted. Wilson “defined the psychedelic poster style ... by translating the music into images and script that flowed across the posters. His posters were distorted and mind-bending, making it impossible not to pay attention.” Wilson designed posters for The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Canned Heat, The Doors and Junior Wells, among others.

In addition to Wilson, there’s Rick Griffin, known for surrealistic, richly colored posters with free form lettering, which can be seen in his 1968 Jimi Hendrix Experience poster, or his posters for Janis and Big Brother, The Doors and The Who. When artist Stanley Mouse teamed up with Alton Kelley they created the timeless skeleton and roses design for The Grateful Dead that definitely stood the test of time, among so many others. Other artists include Mark Arminski, Frank Kozik (grunge music scene), Victor Moscoso, Bonnie MacLean (created posters largely for Fillmore concerts), and Mike Storeim.

There are articles on the prominent venues of the day – The Fillmore, East and West; the Apollo Theater, the Grande Ballroom, the Grand Ole Opry, the Avalon Ballroom, the Cotton Club, and more.

Advice on collecting by the preeminent collectors of concert posters by Mark Salzberg of the Certified Collectibles Group, Pete Howard – concert poster collector and expert; Wayne Johnson of Rockaway Records specializing in records and rock memorabilia; Dan Fogel who created the Underground Comix Price Guide and became a concert poster collector.

And, there are interesting interviews with concert promoter Bill Graham and Peter Albin of Big Brother. The interview with Albin was made possible through the connections of Gary Guzzo of Boothbay Harbor. In fact, Gary leads the marketing and promotion of this new Overstreet Guide and Dawn Guzzo created the layout and design. The Guzzos have a rich, creative history dating back to their years at Marvel Comics (before moving to Boothbay Harbor and establishing Atomic Studios over 20 years ago) – and beyond.

Before Gary Guzzo worked for Marvel he had already made contacts with folks in the comics industry at ComicCon events 1965-1975. Friendships evolved with Steve Geppi, founder and owner of the Diamond Comic Distributors which is the sole distributor of all comics in the U.S.; and met Jeff (J.C.)Vaughn, currently the Vice President of Overstreet Publishing, while Gary was Director of Marketing/Publicity at Marvel Comcis where Jeff was just getting started as a cub reporter.

Eventually, Gary opened his own comic book store, Amazing Tales, in Dobbs Ferry, New York. But it was the decades Gary spent as a roadie, concert promoter and producer (primarily for outdoor venues), to being sound man for club shows; to co-owning a business involved in setting up and promoting large scale trade shows. Just before he was asked to join the Marvel Comics team, Gary sold his comic book store and his half of the trade show business.

Vaughn contacted Gary to be part of Overstreet’s new concert poster collector project. During their conversation Gary asked if he could choose his own designer. No problem. And that designer was Dawn Guzzo. Vaughn, said Gary, was straight up enthusiastic about that.

In addition to figuring out how to market the concert poster guide, he also had to do it while keeping the price down. “I’m starting with small print runs and initially marketed to direct markets, i.e. comic book stores,” Gary Guzzo said. “The guide is meant to introduce people to the hobby. You can still get a fourth edition or licensed reprint of many of the posters. I liked that a lot – that posters were still available to people.”

In addition to marketing and promotion of the Overstreet Guide to Collecting Concert Posters, Gary was asked by Amanda Sheriff, editor and one of the writers on the project, to do some editorial work for her – proofing, ensuring the information was accurate. Sheriff also asked Gary to acquire photos of the most recognizable historical posters.

“It was important to us that we reformatted it (the guides) into something you can use over and over again. It has a completely different look,” Gary Guzzo said. “And through the process of getting the concert poster book together, it’s organized (historical) things that weren’t organized before. It’s about creating a legacy.”

Reading through and absorbing the concert poster eye candy in this new “Overstreet Guide To Collecting Concert Posters” by Amanda Sheriff takes every reader, collector or not, on a trip through time. Dawn Guzzo’s layout and design – from flow to font choices – is dynamite.

“Gary, as art editor, wanted it to be really wild,” Dawn Guzzo said. “That was the intention.”

Considering the content and the time period covered, there wasn’t any other way to go. And here’s the most incredible part of it all: Each book is only $15! Yeah, you heard me, $15. And, in my opinion, worth every cent. Want your own copy? Of course you do. Visit www.gemstonepub.com; Amazon, and www.barnesandnoble.com; or order one through any local book store.